BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Joakim Noah was impressed by the atmosphere in Lithuania and the European style of play |
France international Joakim Noah is one of the main reasons the Chicago Bulls are the top team in the Eastern Conference of the NBA right now.
The 27-year-old center keeps fully focused on Chicago's battle to maintain that top spot ahead of the play-offs, but his face lights up when he is asked about his first EuroBasket experience.
Noah played at a major tournament with Les Bleus for the first time last summer, in Lithuania.
"The EuroBasket was a great experience for me, I had never been to Lithuania before and it reminded me a lot of Sweden, where my mother's side of the family are from," he said in an interview with NBA Greece.
"It (Lithuania) looks very much the same but at the same time I feel like people over there really love basketball.
"It was a great basketball atmosphere, playing against the best European teams was a great experience."
Noah did not spend all his free time taking in the atmosphere though, he also paid attention to what was happening on the court when France were not playing and appreciating the European game.
"The team I was the most impressed with, well of course Spain but that's no secret, but Serbia was very impressive," he admitted.
|Nick Calathes, 'son' of Joakim Noah, fours years his senior|
"The way they move the ball, their plays, they have a great coach, Serbia was the team I was the most impressed with.
"I think (European basketball) is very underrated.
"The style of play is very different, there is no three seconds in the paint so the game is pretty different but overall you have to be able to pass the ball, to move the ball more, it's very team-oriented," he said.
Noah is looking forward to wearing the blue shirt again this summer.
"I wish we had won (gold at the EuroBasket) but still, qualifying for the Olympics is something special and it's going to be a lot of fun.
"I am very excited about it, just qualifying is really exciting, I have a lot of family that will be able to watch me and I've never been able before to be around the best athletes in the world, it's something so special."
Noah won back to back NCAA titles with the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007, his last year in college, while Greece international Nick Calathes joined that team the following year.
The interviewer asks him if he remembers the Panathinaikos point guard and if he'd like to say anything to him.
"That's my son! I am his father," Noah says with an expression worthy of an acting award.
"My son, Nick, I miss you, keep doing your thing, I know you're doing well and your dad says hi..."